Philosophy of Language - PHIL6020

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2024 to 2025
Spring Term 5 30 (15) Michael Wilde checkmark-circle


Groups of marks or bursts of sound are just physical entities but, when produced by a writer or a speaker, they are used to point beyond themselves. This is the property of aboutness or intentionality. Other physical entities generally do not have this property. When you hear a sentence, you hear a burst of sound, but typically you also understand a meaning conveyed by the speaker. What is the meaning of a word – some weird entity that floats alongside the word, a set of rules associating the word with objects, an intention in the mind of the speaker….? What is the difference between what your words imply and what you convey in saying them? How are words used non-literally, how do hearers catch on to the meaning of a newly minted metaphor? How can we mean and convey so much when uttering a concise sentence? When someone says something offensive, is it part of its meaning that it is offensive, or just how it is used? In this module we shall try to find some answers to the questions listed above.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 40
Private Study Hours: 260
Total Study Hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods:

Essay (3,000 words) – 50%
Portfolio (1,500 words) – 40%
Seminar Participation – 10%

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List

Grice, H.P. (1989) Studies in the Ways of Words, London: Harvard University Press.
Kripke, S. (1981) Naming and Necessity, Oxford: Blackwell.
Martinich, A.P. and Sosa, D. (eds.) (2013) The Philosophy of Language (Sixth edition), Oxford; Oxford University Press.
Morris, M. (2007) An Introduction to Philosophy of Language, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Russell, G. and Graff Fara, D. (eds.) (2015) The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Language, London: Routledge.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate critical understanding of philosophical issues around meaning, referring, communicating, pragmatics, metaphor;
2 Engage critically with central issues in philosophy of language through their study of the relevant arguments;
3 Demonstrate the ability to engage in a close critical reading of some of major philosophical texts in the field.


  1. Credit level 5. Intermediate level module usually taken in Stage 2 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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